Tasha Osborne’s Story

Just as COVID-19 reinforced a sense of duty at St. Michael’s and Providence Healthcare, the HUMANCARE campaign is elevating it.

Sleeping in her office for the first three weeks of lockdown, scrambling to source PPE, watching COVID-19 cases overwhelm hospitals in New York and wondering if Toronto was next.

These early pandemic memories are vivid for Tasha Osborne, Senior Clinical Program Director – Surgery and Critical Care at St. Michael’s Hospital. She says it was a frightening and heartbreaking time to work at the hospital. But from the moment the pandemic hit Toronto, every doctor and nurse she knew felt “a duty to serve” of which she’s immensely proud.

“We were told to run in as the rest of the world was told to run out,” she says. “Almost nobody questioned it. En masse, doctors and nurses accepted the directive.”

She notes that throughout the worst of the health crisis, nursing teams provided more than life-saving care; they offered emotional support to scared, isolated patients. They went an extra mile for those who were dying and whose family couldn’t visit.

“I was told that nurses would sit up on the wards with critically ill people sometimes for hours,” she recalls. “They treated it like CPR. They didn’t leave. I think that was meaningful for staff. When there’s so much calamity, it helps to feel like you’re doing something good – that you’re not just lost in it, and you have to carve out that time for that one patient.”

Trained as RN, Osborne applied her nursing triage skills in her role as leader of the Surgery and Critical Care units throughout the pandemic. She had to juggle competing, equally urgent priorities – everything from finding surgical supplies to staffing 100 critical-care beds during the third wave.

Osborne says support from within the hospital and the larger community helped teams carry on. Donors’ contributions to St. Michael’s Foundation’s Courage Fund – covering staff meals and hotel stays and essential COVID-19 testing equipment – were more than practical. They were recognition of the teams’ efforts.

“When donors buy a piece of equipment that a nurse or a doctor needs, you not only help patients, you pull up the entire workforce,” she says. “You remember and honour us as we try to help our patients.”

“I was told that nurses would sit up on the wards with critically ill people sometimes for hours,” she recalls. “They treated it like CPR. They didn’t leave. I think that was meaningful for staff as well. When there’s so much calamity, it helps to know that like you’re doing something good.”

“We were fine for the whole shift, but hearing somebody banging a pot made us all so emotional, we left in tears,” she says. “It’s that simple acknowledgement of the honour that nurses feel for the service they give that would overwhelm me.”

Osborne says just as COVID-19 reinforced a sense of duty at St. Michael’s and Providence Healthcare, the HUMANCARE campaign is elevating it. 

“I’m one of many people at St. Michael’s Hospital and Providence who has a really strong sense of mission and values,” she says. “There’s a culture here that you can’t find anywhere else.”

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